Performance Speaking with Robbie Crabtree

How to improve your speaking skills to help you grow your small business with Performance Speaking by attorney Robbie Crabtree.

Robbie Crabtree - EntrepreneurThe fear of public speaking is often cited as a top fear for most people. But even if you are comfortable, or even good at it – you can always get better at it. Whether it’s an important presentation, sales, or convincing partners or investors – the success of an entrepreneur often depends on their ability to communicate effectively and persuasively. Robbie Crabtree is with me today to share a speaking technique and approach he calls Performance Speaking.

Robbie Crabtree has worked as an attorney on over 100 high-profile cases along with teaching persuasive speaking at Southern Methodist University Law School in Dallas, Texas. He also coaches students to compete nationally in speech competitions every semester. He has worked with leaders at Apple, Google, Microsoft and Reddit to develop their speaking ability, and he developed the Performative Speaking philosophy.

Robbie lives in Dallas, Texas.

Learn more about Robbie’s On Deck Performative Speaking Course.

Henry Lopez discusses Performance Speaking with Robbie Crabtree:

  • What is Performative Speaking? (…using other forms of art as references to create a specific vibe, mood, or feeling in the listener using different speaking tools and techniques. Performative Speaking is art and just like other art forms, the goal is to create emotion in the audience.)
  • Robbie introduces the Performative Speaking framework (to reverse engineer the feeling you want to create by drawing on popular movie scenes that make you feel a certain emotion):
    • What is your Goal for the speech? What is your desired outcome.
    • Feeling – what emotion do you want the audience to feel.
    • The Hook – this is the most important component of the framework. What will create intrigue?
    • The Theme – the one central idea you want your audience to remember.
    • The Dismount – the effective ending of the presentation.
  • Robbie shares examples of how Performance Speaking is different than the way I may typically try to convince someone to buy something from me (or sell investors or partners on an idea)?
  • Tips and techniques that actually work to captivate an audience.
  • What actually works to captivate your audience on calls and webinars?
  • What’s one thing I can utilize or begin to apply that will make my next presentation better?

Episode Host: Henry Lopez is a serial entrepreneur, small business coach, and the host of this episode of The How of Business podcast show – dedicated to helping you start, run and grow your small business.

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Episode Transcript:

The following is a computer-generated transcript of this episode of The How of Business and it may contain some typos.

Henry Lopez
This is Henry Lopez and welcome to this episode of The How of Business podcast. My guest today is Robbie Crabtree. Robbie, welcome to the show. Hey Henry, it’s so great to be here. Thanks for having me today, man. Looking forward to this conversation, you know, a lot of us have the fear of public speaking. It’s often cited as I’m sure you well know as one of the top fears that most people have, but even if you aren’t comfortable or even maybe good at it, you can always get better at it. I think it’s one of those continuous learning things. Uh, and so whether it’s a sales presentation or an internal presentation to your team on your, in your business or convincing partners or investors, the success of an entrepreneur often, if not always depends on their ability to communicate effectively and persuasively. And so Robbie Crabtree is with me today to share a speaking technique that he’s developed and an approach he calls performance speaking.
Let me tell you a little bit more about Robbie. Robbie Crabtree has worked as an attorney on over a hundred high profile cases along with teaching persuasive speaking at Southern Methodist university law school in Dallas, Texas. He also coaches students to compete natural nationally in speech competitions. Every semester he has worked with leaders at companies like Apple, Google, Microsoft, and Reddit to develop their speaking ability. And he developed the performative speaking philosophy, Robby lives in Dallas, Texas, my old, my old neighborhood. And so once again, Robbie Crabtree, welcome to the show.

Robbie Crabtree
Thanks so much, Henry. I, again, I’m just so excited to be here and talk about these issues because what you said there again is so spot on, it’s speaking as one of these skills that we can always improve.
And when we improve it, life just gets better at it. One of the craziest things I see on a regular basis, I I’ve always, I’ve always shared with people. You know, if I’m asked, what are the keys to success? If you can get better at communicating in all aspects of life, not just in business, because that’s what we’re doing day in and day out. We’re trying to either get someone to understand our point of view or get them to do something for us or with us or whatever it might be, whether it’s at a personal level or in business, we’re trying to convince others to see it our way a hundred percent life is really all about sales, right? Like it’s a little bit harsh sometimes to think about it this way. But at the end of the day, we’re always selling, we’re selling our idea. We’re selling our vision. We’re selling ourselves in every conversation we have in every meeting we have. We’re always trying to sell our idea. We’re trying to sell that business, like adjust as kind of the way it is and how do we sell ourselves? And it’s great communication and that’s written communication, visual communication. And in my line of work, it’s spoken communication.
Henry Lopez
Yeah. Agreed. That’s been my experience, but let’s take a step back. I’m curious. Um, you went to law school, obviously you were practicing as an attorney. What, what brought on this focus on, on speaking skills and helping others learn how to get better at it?
Robbie Crabtree
You would think when you watch shows like law and order that every lawyer is a great speaker and I quickly realized how absolutely wrong that is. You watch shows like suits and you think, Oh, everyone’s like Harvey specter. Very, very few people are like that in the legal world. And it struck me that if in a profession where you’re supposed to be, well-spoken where this is supposed to be one of those skills that you develop and that you really own and master, if in this field, people aren’t doing it well, my guess was that people weren’t doing it well in most others as well. And so I quickly started kind of looking into this more and more. And I, I remember being in law school and I’m thinking why aren’t more people being taught this stuff. So after about five years of being a trial lawyer, where I really was developing this philosophy and testing it and getting feedback and iterating, I went back and started teaching precisely speaking at SMU law school, because I wanted to find a way to, to change that, to make sure students were being taught this.
But the problem there is you can’t do it at scale. And you’re only working with students in Dallas, at SMU and a small group of them. So I really started transitioning into more of this larger field of public speaking and working with other leaders, entrepreneurs, founders, investors, whatever it may be because there’s such a need. And I knew that I could deliver on that need and provide value to people. So I said, this has to be something that I just really take near and dear to me, like I love great speaking. My favorite show growing up was the West wing, which obviously is an Aaron Sorkin show. Great speaking that always inspired me. All the leaders I look up to were great speakers throughout history, which was my major. And I want more people to be like that in today’s day and age.
Henry Lopez:
Yeah. It’s a great, great point about we make the assumption that attorneys are great communicators. And the reality is like you said that it’s not often not the case, but you’re absolutely right that to identify. Or I have predicted that in other fields, like small business owners like us, that that’s really an issue and, and a common one where you always a strong communicator.
Robbie Crabtree:
I would say no, because if we actually trace back kind of my development, when I was younger, I had both a stutter and a lisp. So growing up, it was challenging for me because I was very, very self-conscious about that. I didn’t want to speak, I was always thinking people were judging me. I didn’t like the sound of my voice. I was picking up on things. Nobody else was. So it took a while and it really wasn’t until high school that I kind of just developed out of that. And that’s where I started doing the kind of contemporaneous speaking, where you’re given a topic, you’d don’t have any prep and you just have to deliver. That’s where I first started. Then I was involved in sports. So I kind of put that on the back burner while I went through that process. But then in law school, that’s really where I figured out, Hey, I’m I really have kind of a unique skill set. I’m pretty good at this stuff. Let’s see what would be possible if I really spent the time to develop it and learn it and just see where it can take me.
Henry Lopez:
It’s fascinating that you had, you actually had speech impediments or issues, whatever the right word is for it. And, and you had to overcome that. I obviously that made your hut made you hyper-conscious of it. And it was an area of particular focus for you because you didn’t want to be embarrassed and you wanted to overcome it. I have to think
Robbie Crabtree:
A hundred percent, right. It’s, it’s kind of that situation where rather than just accepting it for what it was, I really wanted to make sure that that was never something that I got picked on or bullied for. And so I’ve just really embraced learning to develop that skill. And granted, it was hard. Like I’m not going to lie as a kid, like when you’re in middle school and you’re worried about those things and people are making funny, like that’s a vicious time to try to overcome this stuff. And that’s why I’m, I’m so confident when we’re talking to a lot of like small business owners in all honesty, who struggled with this idea of getting on a camera and speaking, or getting in front of people and delivering a message like it’s possible. Because like, if I overcame that with all the bullying and picking that goes on in middle school, I know that anybody’s capable of it. They just need to kind of have the proper guidance to get themselves there.
Henry Lopez:
It’s inspirational. It goes to the question I would have asked you is, do you think people are born good communicators or not in your case? I think maybe you had that ability, but it certainly took a lot of effort and a lot of, um, practice and conditioning and, and developing skills to overcome those challenges that you had. So you definitely had to make yourself into a strong communicator.
Robbie Crabtree:
People, people are born with ability, but ability doesn’t take you anywhere. And every person can improve at speaking, like every person, a hundred percent can get better. And that doesn’t mean every person is going to be, you know, the next world guard, right. They may not be the very best in the world. Just like I may be able to play basketball to a decent degree, but I’m never going to be the next LeBron James or Michael Jordan. And I think we’ve got to realize that when it comes to speaking, anybody can improve. Great speaking is taught. Some people have an innate ability that we can develop further and really take them to the upper echelons of that world. But everybody can improve. Everybody can be what I like to think of as a base level. Good speaker. I think that that is a core element that we can always deliver if people are willing to put in the time, effort and energy.
Henry Lopez:
Yeah, I agree. That’s been my experience. Okay. So you, you started this separate business and that business, if I understood correctly in the research just recently got acquired by on-deck. Is that right? So tell me, tell me about that. Yeah.
Robbie Crabtree:
I took the, the crazy idea of starting a small business where I’m just running it on my own in the middle of COVID because, well, why wouldn’t you start a business then, right? No, of course. So I, I, you know, I started performing the speaking I created, like I had this philosophy and I essentially created the performance being online course and really developed that. And that was a cohort based course that taught people these skills. It was, you know, five weeks long, we had 35 people go through. The first one, had a lot of fun, had a lot of success. And then in December on deck, which is, you know, a pretty large player in the online community space and online education space, these days, they reached out to me and wanted to acquire my company, bring me in house to basically run their speaking program and build out a program for the on-deck ecosystem. And I mean, I don’t know of any other cohort based course at this point that’s been acquired, but, but I think I’m the first and it’s just been a wild, crazy ride because you start something during COVID and you just, you feel like you’re constantly underwater, underwater, underwater, and you’re just trying to keep that nose just above it, because it’s a tough journey. And then all of a sudden, something like that happens and all of a sudden you feel like you, you really achieve something and it’s just this really powerful.
Henry Lopez:
Yeah. Robbie, what is a cohort-based course, I’m not familiar with that.
Robbie Crabtree:
Sure. So a cohort based course just means there is a, a finite time that the course is running and everybody who gets in we’ll go through that course at the same time. Okay. So for instance, mine started October 19th and it ran for five weeks.
Henry Lopez:
So are you still practicing law as well as all of this stuff?
Robbie Crabtree:
I do practice a little bit of law still. It’s been tough though, because being a trial lawyer, which is what I am with COVID has really shut down the courts. So if I, if I can’t go into a courtroom, it’s hard to be a trial.
Henry Lopez:
Yeah. All right. But now are you an employee now, at least for a period of time in this position that you’ve taken.
Robbie Crabtree:
So I’m kind of wearing many different hats. So the way that it was structured when I came inside of, on deck was that I get to still be the CEO of my company. I just fall the umbrella and olive on deck. And so I still am very much in charge of marketing and growing the business and customer experience and developing the curriculum and running all of that and continue to drive customers in content creation like that all still falls on me. It just, I have the backing now much more of the on-deck name and get to go inside of the community and talk about what I have to offer so that I have kind of warm leads already there. Yeah.
Henry Lopez:
Yeah. The reason I was asking, you know, is, as you obviously seem like an entrepreneur at heart. And so it’s always interesting. I’ve had, I’ve had discussed this with other people who have had this similar situation and how is that transition from having done what you want to do to now to some degree or answering to different stakeholders. Right. And that’s always can be a challenge
Robbie Crabtree:
Is the, the one nice thing is because of the field I’m in, I also am able to continue to run a consulting practice on the side. And that still lets me kind of be super entrepreneurial where I’m trying to build out that business where I’m working with, you know, other leaders who are trying to develop these skills, maybe they’re trying to raise money for fundraising or whatever it may be. And then also have the law firm that I, I actually co own and run. So like there’s still all these entrepreneur hats that I’m, I’m running through and just like balancing all of it and trying to keep all the balls in the air at once.
Henry Lopez:
Yeah. That’s the challenge now. All right. I’d like to start as we deeper dive into this by getting your definition of performative speaking.
Robbie Crabtree:
So the, the definition of my philosophy is performing and speaking as a way of using other art forms that have previously inspired you in order to reverse engineering, create a mood Viber, feeling in your audience to connect with them on a deeper level. That’s the more formal definition. And the reason I chose the word performative is that word actually means ever related to performance art. And the word performativity means the ability for words to bring about change. And I think when we wrap all those together, we’ve got performance art. We’ve got the ability for words to bring about change. And we’ve kind of got my idea of using other sources of inspiration that you’re very familiar with to reverse engineer and create this, this mood Viber feeling in your audience when we bring all those together, that’s really what performance speaking is all about.
Henry Lopez:
Okay. So give me an examples. I can begin to understand what this means
Robbie Crabtree:
A hundred percent. So the last trial I tried, I was on the defense side and I was representing a client who was charged of murdering his brother. And I 100% believed that it was self-defense. And I was a prosecutor for six years before that. So like I was very aware of most of my career was on the other side, putting people into, into prisoner jail if they had committed a wrong. But obviously part of my job as a trial lawyer is to look at the facts, look at the evidence and see what I think in this case, I really believed that he was innocent based on self-defense. So when I went through that process, I was in charge of making that closing argument to my jury. And unfortunately, like he admit to killing him, his brother, but again, I said it was self-defense, but when somebody dies, typically speaking, a jury wants to send somebody to prison as a way of saying killing a person is never right.
And I certainly agree with that, but this, again, like I said, I believed it was self-defense didn’t think he should be going to prison, thought that he should be able to go home and take care of his family. Because at the end of the day, he really was a good guy. It was just a terrible tragedy in situation that he had found himself in. So I’m thinking to myself, how can I deliver this closing argument? How can I connect with my audience? How can I move them to do something that goes against so much of, of human nature? And I went back to the scene in the West wing and it was from the first season it was called take the Sabbath day. And there’s a scene where one of the characters, Toby Ziegler is talking to a rabbi about capital punishment. And I remember going back and I watched that, that scene and I really looked at it, why did this scene move me so much?
And it was the way they use music, the way they use lighting. It was the manner of the talking between the two individuals. It was very intimate, very slow, very quiet. And I said, there’s a way to recreate this to my audience when I deliver my talk. And so when I got up in that closing argument, I reverse engineered from that scene because I knew how it made me feel. And I knew if I could make my jury feel that same way that they would, would be inclined to agree with me and go the way I wanted them to. So I did everything in my power to recreate that mood, that vibe, that feeling I had when I watched it. And so I did that by speaking very slowly, by being very close to my audience, by taking huge pauses and really letting moments, just kind of sit, trying to make it eerie and melancholy inside of that room and try to deliver that emotional impact that I needed. And by using that at the end of that trial, the jury came back, not guilty on murder, and my client was able to go home to his family.
Henry Lopez:
And it’s because you were able to communicate that emotion, that feeling, as opposed to have just having delivered a very monitor monotone closing argument that would not have communicating any of that emotion or feeling that you had.
Robbie Crabtree:
Right. If I just got up there and told them, told the jury all the things that I thought, right. And I think this is the big mistake people make when they’re speaking is they make it about them. The speaker and my goal is to make it all about the audience and what they’re feeling and what they’re experiencing. And so if I can figure out what I need them to feel and experience, and then create that for them, that’s where you actually see those results. And that’s the biggest mistakes speakers make is focusing on themselves instead of focusing on their audience.
Henry Lopez:
Okay. Right. So I suspect that leads in. I want you to explain the, I know you have a framework, a performative speaking framework, and I suspect that’s one of the components, but, but explain that a little bit more. I know it has to do with this reverse engineering of a feeling that you just explained, but tell me a little bit more about how, because I’m assuming their framework has helps me with a structure to preparing for that presentation or speech I need to make
Robbie Crabtree:
Absolutely right. Henry a hundred percent because frameworks in my view allow people to still be authentic to themselves and make it fit into how they want to speak versus like a formula is what a lot of people teach and formulas are very tough because people try to stick a square into a circle and it just doesn’t work. So my formula, my, my framework, when we’re thinking about performance speaking is really a five-part framework. And the first two are the pieces of strategy that I think of. And the, the next three are kind of the tactics that I like to think of in a lot of ways. And the strategy of the first piece is what is my goal? And what I mean by that is that’s actually a step before the outcome. So in this case, my outcome was, I wanted a not guilty verdict, but I really can’t reverse engineer from that because at the end of the day, I never know what’s going through somebody’s mind. Maybe, maybe they just went through some sort of tragedy. So this just hit closer to home. And like, I can’t control that. So too many people focus on reverse engineering from the outcome and that’s just not possible, but we can go that step before. And I’ve said before, is that goal? What is my goal? What do I want them thinking when they’re going to make that decision
Henry Lopez:
And to feel and think about as they made that decision.
Robbie Crabtree:
Right. Yeah, exactly. That actually goes to step two of that framework is what emotion or what feeling do I want them to have? So when we combine that goal and feeling that’s really that one, two punch of the strategy piece, that’ll that allows us to reverse engineer, go back to some sort of inspiration source and figure out how we’re going to use it. Okay.
Henry Lopez:
Yeah. I I’m, I’m confused as to the difference between the goal still and the emotion feeling and how that’s not the one in the same
Robbie Crabtree:
Sony motion is going to be like, I feel very overwhelmed at the, the, the need to send somebody to prison just because somebody died. Right. That would be how they feel. The goal that I’m trying to get from that is that they feel like that justice does not mean something like an eye for an eye. So in this particular case, my goal was I wanted them to feel like justice did not just mean an eye for an eye in order to, to have that thinking in their head, I needed them to feel what I just kind of said was like this overwhelming feeling sense of kind of melancholy and dread of this. Guy’s a good guy. Maybe he made a mistake, but maybe it doesn’t rise to this level of murder. And so that’s kind of how I look at those two things differently.
Henry Lopez:
Okay. So those are the first two components of the framework.
Robbie Crabtree:
Exactly. The, the next three are more what I call tactical. Like those, these are going to be actual pieces inside of your speech that you’re delivering, and those are the hook, the theme and the dismount. And so your hook is that opening piece, because when we’re thinking about delivering sort of top, the hook is the most important part in my eyes because that’s what keeps the audience engaged and lets us deliver them more kind of meat when it comes to the talk.
Henry Lopez:
Is that, so what are you trying to achieve with the hook beyond, uh, getting their attention? I’m sure. But what are you trying to achieve with the hook? Are you anchoring a thoughts or are you trying to, uh, just tell me about what you’re trying to achieve there
Robbie Crabtree:
Depends on the talk and that’s part of why we’ve got to figure out what that goal is that we want ahead of time, because then we can figure out what our hook is. But generally speaking, the hook that I’m trying to get into my audience is intrigue that they want to hear me say more.
Henry Lopez:
Okay. So it’s, it’s the typical what you would get out of an elevator pitch, which is interesting. Robbie, tell me more or I’m listening now
Robbie Crabtree:
A little bit. Yes. I think there is a slight difference in how I like to think about it because I think an elevator pitch is trying to get somebody excited about something I’m more trying to get them intrigued about something and where they can’t get it out of their head.
Henry Lopez:
Exciting, uh, makes me, I’m a, you know, I’m, I’m happy, excited. Intrigued is I am attentive now to the more of the details and the emotions of what you’re about to share with them
Robbie Crabtree:
A hundred percent Henry, I think that’s spot on. Okay. Okay. Go ahead. I’m sorry. No, no. That’s okay. I was just going to go on to the theme is, is the next part. And so theme to me is that, that kind of one central idea that you’re going to make sure your audience remembers the best example I can give you of that is Martin Luther King, Jr. Speech. I have a dream that that’s a perfect theme, right? I have a dream is, is a theme. And so going back to the case, I was just talking about the theme that I used in that situation was vengeance is not justice. And that was what everything’s centered around in that closing argument was vengeance is not justice. And I was pointing everything that I was delivering in that, talk to that themes that when they went back there, if all they were thinking about was vengeance is not justice that had a good chance of leading them to that goal that I had where they think an eye for an eye is not necessarily the way to move forward.
Henry Lopez:
So I’m suspecting Robbie that, and in most cases you’re repeating that theme. Um, maybe not the same words, but maybe the same words throughout your presentation or speech.
Robbie Crabtree:
Yeah. Repetition is just one of those things that’s super effective when it comes to being a speaker. So I think that if you have a great theme, it’s something that you should repeat. If it’s a weaker theme, maybe not as much, but in this case, venues is, is not. Justice is a great one. In fact, the, the recent talk at the inauguration by Amanda Gorman when I was listening to it, the, the theme that I heard was we will rise. We will rise. We will. And cause she said a number of times and I picked up on that as the theme. That’s what I would have walked away with saying that’s what the main message of that, that speech was. And so that’s what we always got to think of is our audience is not going to remember most of what we have to say, right?
Henry Lopez:
So we need to pick one thing that is the core central idea of what we’re talking about and make sure our audience can walk away saying, you know what, I, I heard this great talk by Henry and he was talking about this one idea and it just really stuck with me. Yeah. It’s that key takeaway is it’s quiet at the end of the show. We’ll summarize that one thing you want us to take away on this topic because to your point, uh, people have a hard time remembering a bunch of different, especially if it’s complex, like it might be in business. It’s hard for people to remember that. Yeah. I that’s exactly why we do it right. Is we want to summarize and make sure they walk away with something at the end of the talk. And that also actually leads me very naturally to the last piece of this framework, which is the dismount.
Robbie Crabtree:
And I think of that. That’s your, your last piece of your talk. And so many people mess this up because they end really weekly. They almost just like ran out of steam and don’t know where to finish, but we want to think about it like a gymnast, a gymnast could do a perfect routine. The entire routine can be perfect the entire time through. And they get to that last moment where they’re dismounting off of the beam, off the bars, off the vault, whatever it is. And if they miss, if they take a little step or they take a big step or they fall down, the rest of their presentation is wiped out. And that’s the same when you’re a speaker.
Henry Lopez:
Let’s talk, go back to the example of this, uh, trial. What was your dismount?
Robbie Crabtree:
So in that case, my dismount is I’m leading up, leading up, leading up to it, and you just give them this big kind of last moment. You have the opportunity to send the right message. That vengeance is not justice it’s on you now.
Henry Lopez:
So it was reiterating your theme and what you’re asking them to do.
Robbie Crabtree:
Yup, exactly.
Henry Lopez:
Of course. Everything we’ve talked about here when it relates to business, uh, you know, so, so going back to the definition of performative, speaking, where we bring other forms of art, uh, inspiration, you know, obviously movies or w what you take a lot from, usually we can’t show up with those prompts. I don’t have music playing in the background, but I can apply all of the things that you’ve shared in this example, with how I deliver the message, my cadence, my tone, my speed. And of course, this structure is the most important thing.
Robbie Crabtree:
Exactly. I mean, we don’t have the benefit of costume design or, you know, filming multiple takes and creating music and playing around with lighting, though, we do have is the ability to use our voice, the ability to use our facial expressions, our body language movement, those sorts of things, all play a role. And the way that we play with tone and rhythm and pacing volume, like playing around with some of these oratory tricks, like the rule of three and floating opposites, and one, unlike the other, these are all things that we can do as speakers to recreate that feeling, right? Tone is another one. Like we can use our tone in our voice to create excitement, to create really big drama moments, to create where it’s more somber or we’re joyful. All of these are possible. We can even create sarcasm. Like we’ve all seen sarcasm used very well. And some of the best people to study when it comes to this is actually comedians and go and look at how they develop them, build that tension, and then use their, their voice, use their body language, use those features that they have at their disposal to really deliver that big punchline at the end.
Henry Lopez:
And I think that, uh, some people may be Robbie or a hesitant to because they feel, you know, so many people, I think one of the reasons they struggle with this is they feel inhibited. They have, have lost that ability to express any moat, partially, physically, it’s almost like that gets removed from us because it’s not professional. I guess I’m sure you’re a challenge with that with just loosening people up and having them, because I think maybe we’re afraid we’re going to make a fool of ourselves.
Robbie Crabtree:
We absolutely are afraid that, and that’s completely rational given where we’re human beings, but it’s one of those things you just have to work with people and tell them, like, what is, what is your reasoning behind talking to this crowd, talking to these people. If you have a goal in mind and you can deliver value to them, it is worth you risking making a fool of yourself looking poorly because you know, you can deliver value to them. And that means we’ve got to somehow connect with them to deliver that value. So they actually embrace it. So some of it is just like a mindset shift. And then some of it is also just getting some reps and getting some practice, really diving in and saying, look, here’s how you actually use more of your, your facial expressions to develop this. Here’s how you use your hands in a more powerful way. Here’s how you use your body language to be more open and engaging with your audience. Here’s the things that we can teach you if we just practice enough and build these skills.
Henry Lopez:
Yeah. Great point. It related to all of this, the, the physical components of it, and then the, the atmosphere and what we’re wearing. Some thoughts on how you’re helping people do this more effectively. Now that so much of it is online.
Robbie Crabtree:
So now that it’s online, I mean, we, we had to move a lot of our training into online spaces, right. And that’s really what I, I created back in July and ran in October and now run with on-deck performance speaking. But it’s, it’s really showing people that you can still develop these skills in an online format. And what it requires is learning the foundational skills necessary and then learning how to almost elevate them, just a degree, elevate your facial expressions, elevate your open body language, open, like elevate the way that you use your hands. Just a little bit more so that when you’re on screen, you can actually create that connection with your audience. Even though you’re looking through a camera instead of looking at them in the eye.
Henry Lopez:
So be a bit more demonstrative when I’m on something like zoom using cameras.
Robbie Crabtree:
It’s super counterintuitive because I think most people think, Oh, I’m just on camera. I don’t need to be as kind of over the top. And in some ways
Henry Lopez:
We’re conscious because everybody’s looking at themselves, right. So it’s even worse than being onstage in some regards.
Robbie Crabtree:
Yeah. We, we judge ourselves, right. Because we see them. We’re like, Ooh, that looks weird because we don’t like seeing ourselves. And this is one of those things you can practice is just start getting comfortable, turning on a camera and watching yourself do stuff. So like over time, it just becomes second nature because the more you hear yourself talk, and I’m sure you’ve seen this running the podcast, the more that you talk and hear yourself, the more comfortable you get with your voice and how you sound okay.
Henry Lopez:
Of course. Yeah. Everybody who does it for the first time cringes at the thought of, or the sound of it. But, but again, but so, okay. So emote more. How about on, on phone calls and this is regardless of, of COVID, but what are some techniques that have I’m having that conversation? It’s an important conversation or presenting, maybe it was a conference call before, before zoom, any tips or techniques there on how to communicate effectively or more effectively over a phone.
Robbie Crabtree:
You know, one thing to be aware of on phone calls is a lot of people are multitasking when they’re on phone calls. And this is one of the biggest problems I find is they’re not, they’re not engaged with the actual conversation. And that comes through the listener picks up on that. So one big tip when we’re thinking about phone calls is just actually be engaged, be present, don’t be on another screen, don’t be scrolling Twitter or Instagram or Facebook. Don’t be looking at email, actually pay attention to what the person is saying. And then the other thing I’ll say is as crazy as it sounds, you still want to be very demonstrative in the way that you speak on the phone, because that will actually come through your voice. Like right now, we’re just recording this. We’re not on, on screen or anything like that, Henry. And yet I’m over here using my hands, moving around, like using facial expressions because it helps my voice come through a different way. It helps me create that emotion and actually deliver a warmer presence to the way that I speak. And I do the same thing on the phone when I’m talking. I almost think of it as though somebody is looking at me in the eye and I’m trying to deliver to them in the most meaningful way.
Henry Lopez:
Yeah. I do the same thing. And another trick that I use in it, I think I might’ve read this from, from your content as well is to, to give some pause. We have this tendency to fill all of the air with words. And sometimes to the point of is the listener or listeners are engaged, is to pause. And I think that that pause sometimes regains people’s attention. What do you think about that?
Robbie Crabtree:
Pausing and silence is like one of the, the biggest things I tell people to do more of, and it serves a couple of purposes. One what you just said, it engages them because it gives them almost a chance to cleanser, palette, and really take in what you just said and catch up so that they then feel comfortable listening again. But pauses also can help you highlight really important points. They also help the speaker to think through what they want to say. And I always tell people this, because there’s always this rush on conversations to immediately respond. And I say, look, pausing is one of the best things you can do for really three reasons. One, it demonstrates to your audience, the person you’re talking to, however many people that is that you’re being thoughtful with your answer. Like it shows that you listened to them.

And you’re trying to think through what’s the appropriate response to that, to it demonstrates a level of confidence that you’re willing to just sit there in that silence and know that you’re just going to be fine. So it signals to that listener again, Hey, this is a confident person they’re putting together their thoughts. These are all good things. And the third thing it does, it actually creates a level of connection with your audience because you’re being vulnerable with them. You’re also trusting them to give you the time that you need to respond in a thoughtful and deliberate manner. Yeah.
Henry Lopez:
Yeah. Agreed. That makes a lot of sense. All right. I want to go back a little bit, as we were talking about their framework, you also talk about, and this is something I I’ve learned long time ago in sales, that people will make decisions on emotions and then logic gets applied retroactively, right? It’s like when somebody tells you, no, I’m not going to buy from you. And then they give you a bunch of reasons. You’re like, Oh, those reasons don’t make any sense. That’s because that’s not the real reason. Right. But, but talk to me about that and how again, to, to kind of summarize how that is, how that’s, why it’s so important and the framework that you spelled up, it’s so important to tap into those emotions more than the logic.
Robbie Crabtree:
Yeah. It’s, it’s so true. And I think salespeople know this because they’ve been through that, but so many people kind of in, in life just don’t realize, they think, Oh, if I just give a bunch of numbers and statistics and say why this thing is great, or why I like it so much that the other person’s going to be like, yeah, that I’m going to do the same thing, but it’s not, we’ve got to create emotion in that audience. Right. And this is really a, it’s a two-part application where we’ve got to create emotion, but we also have to deliver content. Like we can’t just create emotion and have no substance there. And the metaphor I kinda like to think of is like meat and candy. We kind of want both, like, people don’t want just like raw meat and they, they can’t survive on just candy.
Like you want a little bit of both so that your audience is getting substance, but also kind of this flare and style. And I think a flare in style in a lot of ways as that emotional component. And then the meat is really kind of that content piece, that logic, that reason, those numbers. And so again, if we focus on what’s our goal and what’s that emotion to get to the goal, we’ve kind of got that first piece set where that’s the emotional part and then the, the hook theme and dismount and those pieces kind of that we’re building in between. There that’s actually what allows us to deliver that content, to deliver that logic, deliver that reason and really make sure that not only are they emotionally moved, but they have the things necessary to back it up so they can rationalize it and explain why they made the decision.
Henry Lopez:
Yeah. Great stuff. Thanks Robbie. Okay. How do I, as we start to wrap it up, but what do you recommend to people to get started? Like what’s one thing I can do start to apply right away that will make my next presentation or speech or talk more effective.
Robbie Crabtree:
Uh, you know, the first thing I would tell anybody to start with is really go through that, those last three pieces of any sort of talk before you deliver it, because you can always prepare those. Those are 100% able to be prepared, to hook a theme and a dismount. And if you have those pieces, then you can start flushing out, any sort of talk in between them. And that theme is going to be your North star. It really guides all the things you’re saying in that piece. And then your hook and your, your dismount, your hook sets you up for success because you immediately are hyper engaged with your audience. And you’re very well prepared. So you get to be more confident and that dismount is, you know, exactly where you’re going to end. So even if you get lost in the middle of your talk, you know, where you’re trying to get to so we can always find our way back home. Those would be the pieces I would start with anytime you’re trying to deliver. And then the big piece too is just to practice. Even if it’s just by yourself, turn on a camera, record yourself, watch it back and see how it sounds and start getting, giving yourself feedback and start practicing and iterating because that’s really where the magic comes in.
Henry Lopez:
And also as we started out, the inspiration that you share, which is you can do this. It’s not just people, some people are born to do it. And some of us are not, that’s not true. You can get better at this, but, but I love those, especially I love the point about the hook, because like you said, if I get lost or I forget part of it that I memorized, if I come back to that, that’ll keep me on track and it can still be a very effective speech presentation, whatever it might be.
Robbie Crabtree:
Yeah. That’s one of those hard things. Henry is people get lost sometimes. And then they just, you know, spiral downwards and lose all control. But if we always know, here’s my theme and here is my, my dismount. So like our theme is our North star. And our dismount is where we want to end. It’s a lot easier to figure out how to get out of that downward spiral because we’ve got a plan in place, too many people go into a talk, a presentation, whatever, and have no plan. Well, if you have no plan, you’re going to fail. And, and that’s just, I mean, anyone who, who is a small business owner understands you don’t have a business plan, good luck. Like you’re going to do crazy things. You don’t have a marketing plan, good luck. Like it’s just going to go all over the place. If we have a plan of where we want to, well, we want to focus on and where we want to end up, we can find ways to get there.
Henry Lopez:
And it seems to me that if you do stay true to that, that theme, and you’re consistent with it, the audience will forgive you often. If you kind of make mistakes along the way or forget parts of it because they get it, they understand. And they’re feeling that theme that you’re trying to communicate. And in part that’s what I’ve found.
Robbie Crabtree:
Totally agree. I think if you can really make sure that you’re consistent with that main core message, your audience is going to forgive you for a lot of the other stuff, because you’ve been so clear and on point on that one main point that you want them to walk away with.
Henry Lopez:
Yeah. All right. Uh, we’ve touched on it briefly, but, but tell me more about in particular, this course that you have, uh, offering now that can help people get better at justice.
Robbie Crabtree:
Yeah. So we run a course with on-deck, it’s called on-deck performative speaking, and it’s an eight week long fellowship program. It’ll have anywhere between a hundred to 150 people during the cohort. It runs for eight weeks. We cover a core curriculum. It’s run by me. We run live sessions. We have breakout rooms. We have additional guest speakers who come in. Some of them include former speech writer for general Petraeus and general Mattis, a bunch of Ted speakers, all sorts of fun people coming in to deliver their expertise and their knowledge as well. And then just lots of resources, community building, building a great network of people and friends. The CEO of morning brew is going to be in it. You tubers with, you know, over a million are going to be in. It’s just a fun place to be, to learn together, be vulnerable with each other and build not only a community, but also build a skill set that will amplify your voice and take you to the next level. And if I want to learn more about that, where do I go? You can go to be on deck.com, backslash performative dash speaking, and we’ll have a
Henry Lopez:
Book recommendation, is there a book that you could think of that you would recommend Gates
Robbie Crabtree:
Fire by Steven Pressfield? It is a fiction book, but it is also one of the finest leadership books, storytelling books I’ve ever read. And Steven Pressfield is a master when it comes to, to writing. [inaudible]
Henry Lopez:
What is kind of a key thing you’ve taken from that book? You think?
Robbie Crabtree:
So one big thing for like my own speaking style is the way that we structure talks and the way that you can jump around with time and how to do it effectively to really build out the most enjoyable and engaging kind of storytelling technique. I see.
Henry Lopez:
Excellent. All right. Let’s wrap it up. What’s one thing you want us to take away? What was the theme? If you will, of this conversation that we had.
Robbie Crabtree:
For me, the theme that I want anybody to ever take away, it reminds me of the scene from the King speech. And it’s when he’s being pushed as to why somebody should listen to him. And he, he kind of rambles and trying to figure it out. And finally he says, because I have a voice and I deserve to be heard. And that’s really what I think for anybody. And so the one thing I always leave people is everyone here has a voice. If you’re a small business owner, if you’re an entrepreneur, whatever it may be, you have a voice, you have a story and it deserves to be told and embrace that, develop that voice, develop those skills and make sure your story is told to the world, right stuff.
Henry Lopez:
Tell us where you want us to go again, uh, online.
Robbie Crabtree:
To learn more you can check out the course program at, beyond deck.com, backslash performative desk speaking. You can also check me out on Twitter, which is at Robbie crab or on Instagram, which is the Robbie crab. And I provide lots of information on both of those pages as well. And people can always feel free to DM me, reach out to me for any questions or anything that they need. Wonderful.

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